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Power Pioneer Invents New Battery That's 90% Cheaper Than Lithium-Ion

Slashdot.org - Thu, 07/09/2020 - 22:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Lithium-ion batteries play a central role in the world of technology, powering everything from smartphones to smart cars, and one of the people who helped commercialize them says he has a way to cut mass production costs by 90% and significantly improve their safety. Hideaki Horie, formerly of Nissan Motor Co., founded Tokyo-based APB Corp. in 2018 to make "all-polymer batteries" -- hence the company name. The making of a cell, every battery's basic unit, is a complicated process requiring cleanroom conditions -- with airlocks to control moisture, constant air filtering and exacting precision to prevent contamination of highly reactive materials. The setup can be so expensive that a handful of top players like South Korea's LG Chem Ltd., China's CATL and Japan's Panasonic Corp. spend billions of dollars to build a suitable factory. Horie's innovation is to replace the battery's basic components -- metal-lined electrodes and liquid electrolytes -- with a resin construction. He says this approach dramatically simplifies and speeds up manufacturing, making it as easy as "buttering toast." It allows for 10-meter-long battery sheets that can be stacked on top of each other "like seat cushions" to increase capacity, he said. Importantly, the resin-based batteries are also resistant to catching fire when punctured. In March, APB raised $74 million, which is tiny by the wider industry's standards but will be enough to fully equip one factory for mass production slated to start next year. Horie estimates the funds will get his plant in central Japan to 1 gigawatt-hour capacity by 2023.

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Amazon Will Pay $135,000 To Settle Alleged US Sanction Violations

Slashdot.org - Thu, 07/09/2020 - 21:30
In a statement (PDF) issued this week, the U.S. Treasury Department notes that Amazon has agreed to pay $134,523 to settle potential liability over alleged sanctions violations. TechCrunch reports: The charges specifically pertain to goods and services sent to people located in Crimea, Iran and Syria, which are covered by Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctions, between November 2011 and October 2018. The Treasury Department also states that the retail giant failed to report "several hundred" transactions in a timely manner. The department adds: "Amazon also accepted and processed orders on its websites for persons located in or employed by the foreign missions of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria. Additionally, Amazon accepted and processed orders from persons listed on OFAC's List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (the "SDN List") who were blocked pursuant to the Narcotics Trafficking Sanctions Regulations, the Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators Sanctions Regulations, the Transnational Criminal Organizations Sanctions Regulations, the Democratic Republic of the Congo Sanctions Regulations, the Venezuela Sanctions Regulations, the Zimbabwe Sanctions Regulations, the Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations, and the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Sanctions Regulations." The department doesn't believe there was anything malicious going on, rather an issue with Amazon's system, which failed to flag shipments to sanctioned areas.

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More Pre-Installed Malware Has Been Found In Budget US Smartphones

Slashdot.org - Thu, 07/09/2020 - 20:50
Pre-installed malware has been discovered on another budget handset connected to Assurance Wireless by Virgin Mobile. ZDNet reports: Back in January, cybersecurity researchers from Malwarebytes discovered unremovable malware bundled with the Android operating systems on the Unimax (UMX) U686CL, a low-end handset sold by Assurance Wireless as part of the Lifeline Assistance program, a 1985 U.S. initiative which subsidizes telephone services for low-income families. There was no way to remove a pair of apps on the handsets which would install other software on the devices without the user's knowledge. Now, Malwarebytes has uncovered another budget handset with similar security issues. The smartphone in question is the ANS (American Network Solutions) UL40, running Android OS 7.1.1. [...] In the same way as the UMX U686CL, two apps -- a settings app and wireless update app -- are compromised. However, these apps are not infected with the same malware variants; instead, Collier says the "infections are similar but have their own unique infection characteristics." The Settings app is detected as Downloader Wotby, a Trojan that is able to download apps externally. The researchers did not find any evidence of malicious apps in a third-party store linked to the software but noted this doesn't mean that malicious apps could not be added or find their way into the store at a later date. The WirelessUpdate app is considered a Potentially Unwanted Program (PUP) that is also able to automatically install apps without user permission or knowledge. While the app does function as an over-the-air updater for security fixes and as an updater to the operating system itself, the software also installs four variants of HiddenAds, a Trojan family found on Android handsets. Thankfully, Malwarebytes has instructions on how to stop HiddenAds infections.

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TikTok Mulls Changes to Business to Distance Itself From China

Slashdot.org - Thu, 07/09/2020 - 20:10
Bytedance said it's evaluating changes to the corporate structure of its TikTok business as U.S. concerns grow over the parent company's Chinese origins. Bloomberg reports: Executives are discussing options such as creating a new management board for TikTok and establishing a separate headquarters for the app outside of China to distance its operations from Beijing, according to a person familiar with the discussions. Short-video and music app TikTok currently doesn't have its own headquarters separate from Bytedance, which was founded in China and is incorporated in the Cayman Islands. TikTok is considering a number of locations for a global base, the person familiar with the plans said, asking not to be named discussing information that's not public. Its five largest offices are in Los Angeles, New York, London, Dublin and Singapore. "We will move forward in the best interest of our users, employees, artists, creators, partners, and policy makers," TikTok said in a statement.

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xMEMS Announces World's First Monolithic MEMS Speaker

Slashdot.org - Thu, 07/09/2020 - 19:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from AnandTech: In the last few years, semiconductor manufacturing has become more prevalent and accessible, with MEMS (Microelectromechanical systems) technology now having advanced to a point that we can design speakers with characteristics that are fundamentally different from traditional dynamic drivers or balanced armature units. xMEMS' "Montara" design promises to be precisely such an alternative. xMEMS is a new start-up, founded in 2017 with headquarters in Santa Clara, CA and with a branch office in Taiwan. To date the company had been in stealth mode, not having publicly released any product till today. The company's motivations are said to be breaking decades old speaker technology barriers and reinventing sound with new innovative pure silicon solutions, using extensive experience that its founders have collected over years at different MEMS design houses. The manufacturing of xMEMS' pure silicon speaker is very different to that of a conventional speaker. As the speaker is essentially just one monolithic piece manufactured via your typical lithography manufacturing process, much like how other silicon chips are designed. Due to this monolithic design aspect, the manufacturing line has significantly less complexity versus voice coil designs which have a plethora of components that need to be precision assembled -- a task that is quoted to require thousands of factory workers. The company didn't want to disclose the actual process node of the design, but expect something quite crude in the micron range -- they only confirmed that it was a 200mm wafer technology. Besides the simplification of the manufacturing line, the MEMS speaker features higher consistency membrane movement which allows higher responsiveness and lower THD for activate noise cancellation, compared to a more variable voice coil design. The speaker's frequency response covers the full range from 10Hz to up to 20KHz, and the design is said to be able to compete with planar magnetic designs, promising to have only 0.5% THD at 200Hz -- 20KHz. "As these speakers are capacitive piezo-driven versus current driven, they are able to cut power consumption to fractions of that of a typical voice coil driver, only using up 42uW of power," adds AnandTech.

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Indian Army Personnel Banned From Using 89 Apps

Slashdot.org - Thu, 07/09/2020 - 19:01
schwit1 writes: Indian troops will not be allowed to use some of the world's most well-known applications. The move goes further than for civilians when the government banned 59 apps, including TikTok, from general use. According to India Today, the Indian Army on Wednesday asked its personnel to delete 89 apps from their phones, including apps such as Facebook, Truecaller, Instagram and games like PUBG. "The latest instruction comes as a bid to plug leakage of sensitive national security information from phones of armed forces personnel," the report says. "The Army has set July 15 as the deadline for the security forces personnel to remove the 89 apps from their phones." Apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, and YouTube are O.K. as long as the personnel don't reveal their army background on the platforms.

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Apple's ARM-Based Macs To Support Thunderbolt

Slashdot.org - Thu, 07/09/2020 - 18:20
tlhIngan writes: For those worried that the transition Apple is doing to ARM-based Macs will drop Thunderbolt, Apple has stated that they will continue to support Thunderbolt. This was a worry since Thunderbolt is primarily an Intel design (formerly known as Light Peak) with Apple collaboration, and that none of Apple's ARM based devices support it (not even the ARM Developer Transition Kit).

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Portland Approves 10% Cap On Fees That Food Delivery Apps Can Charge Restuarants

Slashdot.org - Thu, 07/09/2020 - 17:40
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Oregon Live: The Portland City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to make it illegal for third-party food delivery services like DoorDash and Grubhub to collect more than 10% in commission fees from city restaurants amid the coronavirus pandemic. Portland joins other cities, including Seattle, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, that have instituted similar caps in recent months. Those cities have limits at 15%. New Jersey last week put a 10% service fee cap that applies to all restaurants in the state. Food delivery company fees can be as high as 30%. The new rule also makes it illegal for DoorDash, Uber Eats and other companies to decrease payments to delivery workers in order to make up lost money from restaurant fees, the ordinance said. The city council approved an amendment to the order Wednesday to also include a 5% limit if the delivery service allows a restaurant to transport their own food or if a customer orders through the app and picks up their items at the business. The restrictions would end 90 days after Portland's state of emergency order lifts. No date has been set to lift the order, which has been in place since March 12. Delivery app companies would be liable for up to $500 in civil penalties if the order is violated and the fine would accrue every day and for every restaurant overcharged. The restaurant would have to sue the company involved if they aren't given refunds.

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AI Researchers Create Testing Tool To Find Bugs in NLP From Amazon, Google, and Microsoft

Slashdot.org - Thu, 07/09/2020 - 17:05
AI researchers have created a language-model testing tool that discovers major bugs in commercially available cloud AI offerings from Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. Yesterday, a paper detailing the CheckList tool received the Best Paper award from organizers of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL) conference. From a report: NLP models today are often evaluated based on how they perform on a series of individual tasks, such as answering questions using benchmark data sets with leaderboards like GLUE. CheckList instead takes a task-agnostic approach, allowing people to create tests that fill in cells in a spreadsheet-like matrix with capabilities (in rows) and test types (in columns), along with visualizations and other resources. Analysis with CheckList found that about one in four sentiment analysis predictions by Amazon's Comprehend change when a random shortened URL or Twitter handle is placed in text, and Google Cloud's Natural Language and Amazon's Comprehend makes mistakes when the names of people or locations are changed in text. "The [sentiment analysis] failure rate is near 100% for all commercial models when the negation comes at the end of the sentence (e.g. 'I thought the plane would be awful, but it wasn't'), or with neutral content between the negation and the sentiment-laden word," the paper reads.

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Chrome and Firefox Are Getting Support For the New AVIF Image Format

Slashdot.org - Thu, 07/09/2020 - 16:25
The new lightweight and royalty-free AVIF image format is coming to web browsers. Work is almost complete on adding AVIF support to Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. From a report: The new image format is considered one of the lightest and most optimized image compression formats, and has already gained praise from companies such as Netflix, which considers it superior to existing image formats such as JPEG, PNG, and even the newer WebP. The acronym of AVIF stands for AV1 Image File Format. As its name hints, AVIF is based on AV1, which is a video codec that was developed in 2015, following a collaboration between Google, Cisco, and Xiph.org (who also worked with Mozilla). At the time, the three decided to pool their respective in-house video codecs (VPX, Thor, and Daala) to create a new one (AV1) that they planned to offer as an open-source and royalty-free alternative to all the commercial video codecs that had fragmented and clogged the video streaming market in the late 2000s and early 2010s.

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